Where’s the artwork? Have you ever read a book, and later watched a movie or TV show based upon it? At any point did you feel a little disappointed that things didn’t match the author’s description, or somehow characters, locations, and other important elements looked completely different from what you’d imagined them to be? That’s the short answer to why there’s no artwork in this book.
While it’s a long-standing tradition to have copious amount of illustrations in roleplaying books, and those pictures can sometimes serve a useful purpose beyond looking pretty or padding out the page count, they can also be a limitation and place unintended boundaries around your imagination. The stories that you tell using this book should be your stories. The things that you describe should look the way that you want them to look. As soon as we include a picture of a weapon, a ship, or a monster, that begins to choke off your creative options.
Novels and short stories, for the most part, don’t have illustrations, and people are still able to understand what’s happening. Telling ghost stories around a camp fire doesn’t require visual aids, other than the story teller possibly sticking a flashlight under their chin to look more spooky. The number of authors who hate the covers that editors and publishers put on their books, or who hate the filmed versions of their stories, are legion. Visuals do not automatically make things better.
Everyone seated around the table, participating in your group, can play a character. They can all have a hand in shaping the plot, moving things forward, and deciding what happens next. Not everyone can draw or paint. Even fewer can create pictures that match the style of the artwork, the familiar trade dress, used in a given roleplaying book.
All of these thoughts went into the design choices made about this book, but there’s one final point that’s the most important:
Literacy and storytelling are central to what Dancing Lights Press is about. We’re not in the business of publishing coffee table books that are pretty to look at. This book exists to help you tell stories, use your creativity, and exercise your imagination. Everything in these pages, this essay notwithstanding, should help you to do that and then get out of your way as quickly as possible. We don’t think that art is absolutely essential to fulfilling that mission.